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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

ASEE Multimedia Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.869.1 - 8.869.11

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Paper Authors

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Glenda Kelly

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Martha Absher

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Gary Ybarra

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2793

Math Understanding through the Science of Life (MUSCLE)

Glenda T. Kelly1, Gary A. Ybarra2 and Martha S. Absher2 1 Private Practice, Chapel Hill, NC/ 2 Pratt School of Engineering, Duke University, Durham, NC


MUSCLE is an academic enhancement program partnering Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering, Lakewood Elementary School and Rogers-Herr Middle School in Durham, NC. The mission of this program is to promote a passion for understanding and applying math in elementary and middle school students through its application to the science of life. Another goal of the MUSCLE program is to increase Math End-of-Grade (EOG) scores and sustain a high level of math achievement. A specific emphasis is on fostering this passion for math in under- represented minorities. This mission is being realized through multiple program facets including the placement of undergraduate engineering students (GE Engineering Teaching Fellows ETFs) at our partnership schools. The GE ETFs spend 10 hours per week at their partnership school helping teachers develop and execute hands-on activities that integrate meaningful math exercises into the life sciences. The GE ETFs act as role models and sources of expertise in the application of mathematics to fascinating problems in life sciences. This paper summarizes the outcomes and gains made after the first year of the MUSCLE program for the 2001-2002 school year. To date 495 students were served at the middle school and 206 students at the elementary school. Data was collected in the form of teacher, student, and fellow surveys at the beginning and end of the school year to assess the impact of providing hands-on activities in teaching math integrated into a rich life sciences curriculum. We show through statistical measures that improvement in math EOG test scores are significantly greater in classes served by the GE ETFs.

Purpose and basis of study

The vast majority of African American and female students in the inner city schools never make it to taking algebra in the 8th grade. As a result many doors are closed to them in the fields of math, science and technology. It is top priority of the Durham Public Schools to have every student take and pass Algebra by the end of the 8th grade. Unfortunately the students arrive at 6th grade so far behind that it is very difficult for the middle schools to catch them up in time. By starting to accelerate learning in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade, and by reinforcing this knowledge in middle schools, we will ensure that the students have every opportunity to pursue a wider range of academic options. In addition there is a high correlation between what children say they like and what they seem themselves as “being good at” 6,7,17 and children often turn away from math because it is “too hard” 8,9. Mathematics has traditionally been taught as a discrete topic.1,3,4,5 This can result in children viewing math as a subject separate from other subjects and something to be avoided. It is the goal of MUSCLE to integrate math into all areas of the North Carolina Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Kelly, G., & Absher, M., & Ybarra, G. (2003, June), Muscle Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee.

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